Last year, financial problems nearly put the Eugene Opera out of business. But it was able to pay off its debts with the community’s help. This weekend, the Eugene Opera performs Maria de Buenos Aires in the Hult Center’s Soreng Theater.
Maria de Buenos Aires is described as a tango operita. Columbia-born Soprano Catalina Cuervo plays the title role. She’s made it her own after playing the part nearly 50 times.
Cuervo: “Maria de Buenos Aires specifically has a story that symbolizes tango. So let’s say if tango would be in human form, he will be called Maria. So, Maria is tango.”
Cuervo says Maria dies in the middle of the opera and becomes a ghost.
Cuervo: “When you go see Maria, you are, more than a linear story, you’re there to hear, feel and see and experience of tango.”
Andrew Bisantz is Artistic Director and Conductor of the Eugene Opera.
Bisantz: “Catalina’s done the role in 15 productions. There is no person on the planet other than Astor Piazzola and Horacio Ferrer, who are no longer with us, who know Maria de Buenos Aires as well as Catalina Cuervo does.”
Astor Piazzola is the composer. The libretto was written by surrealist Horacio Ferrer.
Cuervo says some productions have a lot of tango dancing others have very little. But tango will be a big feature of this production.
Cuervo: “We are really, really lucky to have one of the best couples of tango in the world, which is Fernanda Ghi & Guillermo Merlo. They are well-known all over the world and she’s a fantastic choreographer and we’re going to have her be there with me telling the story of Maria with dance.”
Conductor Bisantz says watching Maria and the dancer rehearse is extraordinary as they create a sort of co-character.
Bisantz: “And they’re both such inventive performers that it’s really very moving. I find myself in rehearsal frequently moved to tears and having to kind of deal with my emotions because it’s so incredibly powerful. And a lot of it has to do with the material itself but their interpretation of it is really something to be seen.”
Executive Director Erika Rauer joined the Eugene Opera last fall. She says since the company faced its financial crisis last year, they’ve put their focus more directly on fundraising.
Rauer: “We’re really trying to convey to the community that, if you care for something, you have to pay for it. And that means that it’s more than the ticket price. It’s donations. It’s gifts. It’s sponsorships. And so we’re both increasing our ability to talk about that very frankly, I think, and to communicate that so that people really understand.”
Andrew Bisantz has been conducting opera at the Eugene Opera for 10 years. He says this production is among the finest he’s been a part of.
Bisantz: “It’s important for us to feel that we must protect this institution and make decisions that are not only exciting artistically but smart financially and reflect where the company currently is so we are not going to skimp on the quality that we’ve seen in the past.”
Bisantz says tickets are nearly sold out for Maria de Buenos Aires. Performances are Friday night and Sunday afternoon at the Hult Center in Eugene.
For more information visit EugeneOpera.com.